Tuesday 30 July 2019


Unauthorised sampling - the CJEU adds some clarity

The core issue in this all important case between the German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk and and hip-hop producers Moses Pelham and Martin Haas in 1999 over the Sabrina Setlur song “Nur Mir”, which revolves around thse sample a two-second snippet of Kratfwerk's “Metall auf Metall” used as a loop was whether a license is required for sampling and could non-pursual of the same violate the phonogram producers rights? The AG's opinion which was released in December and 2018 gave an affirmative view to the same arguing that the “reproduction in part” does not require copied portions to be original. The CJEU in its decision (according to IPKAT and the Press Release) has stated that the reproduction of a sound sample by a user even if a very short clip must be regarded as a reproduction in principle “in part” and falls in the realm of the exclusive ownership of the phonogram producer. However the court went on to add that a rational respect towards freedom of artiatic expression in music must be recognised when the sampled portion is creatively played with to the extent that it is unrecognisable to the ear in another phonogram. In that case it won’t be a reproduction.  So the CJEU has now said that sampling a sound recording, however short a snippet the sampler takes, needs approval from the copyright owner of the original track and in accordance with the same it held the German Legislation allowing for an exception in the case of sampling as incompatible with the EU law, and it imperative to harmonize this substantive phonogram producers exclusive right irrespective of the fundamental right grounds claimed by the national jurisdiction. 

5 Seconds of Summer accused of copying by Hungarian songwriters

Moving from sampling to allegations of plagiarism, A Texas court recently saw a case where the Aussie pop group Five Seconds of Summer had been accused of ripping off a 2018 hit called “Younghood” from a song composed by Hungary based musicians David Henderson, David Toth and Peter Ferencz called “White Shadows”. It has been alleged by the applicants that the success of this rip-off has substantially taken to band to new heights virtually single-handedly, as reported by Complete Music UpdateIt has been alleged that the first melodic phrase of “Youngblood” shares virtual identicality with the similarly placed phrase from “White Shadow” and are both repeated equal number of times in the songs i.e. 4 times. The lay-listener has been used to allege an infringement by the Hungarian composers. It has further been alleged that the worldwide acclaim and substantial revenue which has been garnered by virtue of Youngblood, is a result of exploitation and appropriation and the applicant’s deserve accreditation and compensation in lieu of the same.

Take a listen - with the Applicant’s song is here https://youtu.be/7zMzXQU5dkA and the allegedly infringing song here https://youtu.be/-RJSbO8UZVY . In a second major case, a jury has now ruled that the Katy Perry song Dark Horse does plagiarise a Christian rap song. After two days of deliberations, the jurors concluded that Perry's team had likely heard 2008 release 'Joyful Noise' before writing 'Dark Horse', and that the latter was sufficiently similar to the former to constitute copyright infringement.

Now NIKE sues Kawhi Leonard - claiming exclusive rights on its Logo!

Nike has filed a countersuit against NBA star Kawhi Leonard, arguing that it holds exclusive rights to the claw logo that its “talented team of designers” created and claims its distinct from the design that Leonard had sketched and provided to the company, his “Klaw” logo, which he had conceived and created in college drawing on his hands. Although it has been admitted by the NIKE legal representatives that  Kawhi Leonard had submitted a design, they have gone on to state that it is a false claim that the design was the “Claw” design, as reported in the Bulletin. In the form of a counter claim, NIKE has gone on to now allege copyright infringement and breach of contract. This has been done in lieu of the use of the claw design on non-Nike apparel in the NBA finals. Nike had already served notice to Leonard’s lawyers in lieu of the same which was responded with non-agreement and compliance. Nike has further argued as reported in NiceKicks.com that Leonard had on an earlier occasion claimed that “I drew up the rough draft and sent it over and they made it perfect. They refined it and made it look better than I thought it would ever be, and I’m extremely happy with the final version.” Further, Nike has produced the initial sketch in the court which was given by Leonard which looks like an amateur drawing as has been reported by the Bulletin. Also, Nike does not claim any ownership over this initial rough design, rather merely on the final refined version.

CASE Act passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee

As had been reported by PetaPixel, the long awaited CASE Act has been passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee - if passed, the bill will  go on to establish a small claims court for Copyright Infringement cases in the USA. There is yet to be a full vote on the Senate Floor. Currently, to defend one’s copyright, a direct action needs to be made before the Federal Court which is an expensive and an extremely formalistic procedure. However, this act if legislated successfully would establish a small claims tribunal within the US Copyright Office, simplifying defense of copyrights. The highest amount of damages which can be awarded by this court per infringed work would be $15,000 with the total being a maximum of $30,000. This definitely increases the efficiency and reduces a certain amount of burden on the Federal Court. It will involve the appointment of three full-time Copyright Claims Officers who will look after the same.

This bill has been extensively supported by the US photographers, illustrators, graphic artists, songwriters and authors as well as bloggers! Even the National Press Photographers Association went ahead to commend the pressing of this act in the Senate by saying ““This is a very positive step in addressing infringement issues, where previously individual creators felt they had a right with no remedy because of the high cost of copyright litigation”, as reported by PetaPixel. The only criticism which has been drawn however has been upon the unappealable nature of this tribunal and the high amount of $30,000 being involved as a punitive power. 

It will be interesting to see the voting view taken by the Senate floor.

DailyMotion denied safe harbour protection

Dailymotion has been ordered to pay €5.5m in damages to Italian broadcaster Mediaset with the Rome court saying that Dailymotion was “entirely aware” of copyright infringement. As reported by Complete Music Update, in a case brought in by the Italian TV company RTI against  Dailymotion, it was argued by the applicant that Dailymotion should be held liable for hosting copyright infringing content without a license, involving programmes of the applicant. The take-down commitments were fulfilled by Dailymotion, and upon serving a notice, it had taken down such alleged infringing material. However, the Rome Court, absolved the safe harbour protection available to such intermediaries like Dailymotion as it did not fulfil the criteria set out in the EU E-Commerce directive, which is the origin point of the EU Safe Harbour norms. It has been ruled to be an “Active Host”. For failing to have a filtering mechanism and a system to automatically remove all such infringing content, Dailymotion has been asked to pay 5.5 million euros in damages. This has greatly increased the responsibility of a user-upload based intermediary platform and has reduced the standard from actual knowledge to mere presence. The courts of Rome have further refused to involve the European Court to confirm and clarify the interpretation and applicability of the EC Directive. It has been held that the right holder did not have an obligation to provide URL’s for the content that the platform should remove in its take down request and a simple indication in the title of the video would be sufficient. This seems all the more as an absurd and a non-sustainable interpretation and it will be interesting to see how this case turns out in lieu of the pending cases on the interpretation of Article 14 of the EC Directive in the CJEU. Although, this decision has been hailed by Italian media Conglomerate wherein it has reportedly been stated by its Chief Executive that: “Today’s decision is therefore an authentic turning point in consolidated national and EU jurisprudence (repeatedly referred to by the Court in the judgment in question) aimed at protecting the work of publishers, which is under attack by diverse forms of online piracy: A phenomenon that destroys both economic value and jobs in journalism and publishing companies.” (Reported by IBC 365). More on this in the IPKAT.

The functionality doctrine revisited in the Lego’s Copyright dispute against its British Competitor

The world famous toy maker from Denmark, Lego, has successfully won a copyright infringement suit against a British competitor in the US District court for the District of Connecticut. This dispute was launched in 2011 when Lego had sued Best-Lock for producing and selling infringing minifigurines. It was alleged, as reported by World IP review, that Best Lock’s advertisements had highlighted the well-known interchangeability of its figures and body parts with Lego’s. The main argument of the defendant in this case was the elements of Lego’s copyrighted work being functional. The court after confirming access, went on to conclude that the fact that some elements of the work are functional doesn’t render the whole work as non-copyrightable. The court said: “A comparison of the works makes clear that Best-Lock has copied protectable, expressive elements that are original to Lego”  Remember the case of Broderbund Software v. Unison World?

Copyright Protection of Military Reports, of national importance

In a very important opinion issued by the CJEU on a reference made in context of litigation between the German Government and a newspaper over unauthorized publication of “Afghanistan papers” and certain confidential reports, wherein the question of interplay of Copyright and Freedom of Press was brought in before the CJEU. Basically, the question was can freedom of expression and information be a valid defense for copyright infringement? The AG opinion reflected reluctance in admitting copyrightability of military reports. However, the CJEU has gone on to rule that Freedom of Information and press are not justifiable grounds to derogate from rights of copyright holders beyond exceptions set out itself within the InfoSoc directive. The concept of external limitations is not viable in law. As on the question of whether military reports are copyrightable in the first place, the court went on to hold that it is upon the national courts to decide whether the conditions of copyrightability and intellectual creation showing free and creative choices are there in these reports or not. If fulfilling the criteria of being a “work”, no justification in the form of freedom of information is sustainable.

The court went on to finally hold that: “As is clear from the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, for the purpose of striking a balance between copyright and the right to freedom of expression, that court has, in particular, referred to the need to take into account the fact that the nature of the ‘speech’ or information at issue is of particular importance, inter alia in political discourse and discourse concerning matters of the public interest. In those circumstances, having also underlined the way in which Funke Medien published the military status reports on the internet, the Court of Justice states that it is not inconceivable that such use may be covered by the exception concerning current events reporting provided for in the Copyright Directive.” More on this once the judgment is available  on IPKAT.

And finally - trolls get a bashing

A High Court Judge has torn apart a trolling application made against Virgin subscribers in the United Kingdom - Douglas Campbell QC's can be found on TorrentFreak and is well worth a read - here's a snippet: "I do not accept that I should simply assume that a 9 year old expert report remains up to date, particularly one given in the field of computer software,” the Judge commented, noting that the report also lacked the required “statement of truth” to comply with civil procedure rules  ..... . 

This Copykat by Akshat Agrawal

Copyright Infringement Suit Against Supermodel Gigi Hadid Dismisssed

Judge Pamela K. Chen from the Eastern District Court of New York dismissed on July 18 a copyright infringement suit filed by XClusive-Lee, Inc. against supermodel Gigi Hadid, claiming that a picture she posted on her Instagram account was infringing.

Hadid’s Instagram account currently has almost 49 million followers, interested in viewing family pictures, fashion magazines cover featuring Hadid, fashion shoots and fashion photographs. Hadid posted in October 2018 a cropped version of a photograph of her taken the day before by a paparazzi outside Vogue’s Force of Fashion conference, where Hadid was part of a panel

The original version of the photograph showed Defendant wearing a denim jacket and shorts, a small handbag, high heels, jewelry and make up, smiling at the camera in an outdoor urban setting, probably outside the New York City studio where the conference took place. 

The photo posted by Hadid on social media was cropped mid-thigh. She added as comment:”all smiles post #ForceOfFashionpanel @voguemagazine.wearing #messikabygigihadid mini-cuffs and mono earing”, referring to a line of jewelry bearing her name which is sold by a French jeweler.  The “mono earrings”referred to in the post retail at $5,710. 

Xclusive-Lee, Inc., the company which owns the copyright to this photograph, filed a copyright infringement suit against Hadid in January 2019, claiming Hadid “copied and posted Copyrighted Photograph to Hadid’s Instagram account without license or permission from Xclusive-Lee.” It claimed that it was entitled to statutory damages, including any profits realized by Hadid attributable to the infringement, pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504

As a reminder, a work is protected by copyright, if it is fixed in a tangible medium and if it is original enough, even if it is not registered. However, a registration is required if filing a copyright infringement suit, and the Supreme Court recently held in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street. Com LLC  that § 411(a) of the Copyright Act requires that copyright registration occurs “only when the Copyright Office grants registration” (at 888).

At the time of filing the suit, Plaintiff had applied for a copyright in the photograph, but had not been granted registration. Plaintiff argued that it had filed the copyright infringement suit before the Fourth Estate decision, but the EDNY rejected the argument as the Court cannot decline applying a Supreme Court decision “merely because the Supreme Court decision was issued after the filing of the compliant at issue in this case.”
The case was dismissed because the photograph was not registered with the Copyright Office.
That said, posting a photograph protected by copyright on Instragram without permission is copyright infringement. The Complaint noted that Hadid’s Instagram account featured several examples of “uncredited photographs of Hadid in public, at press events, or on the runway” and that “[m]ost if not all of these photographs were posted by Hadid without license or permission from the copyright holder.” 

Could it be fair use? Hadid may have used this photograph in order to contribute to the promotion of her jewelry line. Therefore, the character of the use, one of the four fair use factors, may have been for commercial gain, not for the sake of commenting or news reporting for the Vogue conference.
The second factor, the nature of the work, would probably be in Hadid’s favor, as it is not very creative. Hadid did not use all of the work, but cropped it, but she nevertheless substantially used the work, and so the third factor could have been in Plaintiff’s favor as well. The fourth factor, the economic effect on the value of the work, measures the effect of the use on the market. The picture could be licensed to be used on her Instagram account in order to promote a commercial line, and so it is possible that the fourth factor would have been in Plaintiff’s favor. 

It could it be argued that this particular photograph was not protected by copyright, as a work must be original enough to be protected. The photo was taken in the streets of New York, and must have been taken quickly, thus leaving little time for the photographer to make choices. Hadid deftly takes the pose, and it can be argued that it is her professional experience which contributed to the picture being original, unless the pose was directed by the photographer.
If a copyright registration had been granted before filing the case, the suit would likely not have been dismissed, as fair use is fact-based and thus is unlikely to be decided when granting a motion to dismiss.

However, if a copyright registration is mandatory for filing a copyright infringement suit, the Copyright Office may start to examine more closely whether a particular work is indeed original enough to be protected by copyright…

Take-away: Plaintiff must have a valid copyright registration before filing a copyright infringement suit.  

Tuesday 16 July 2019


The United States Copyright Office has chosen the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) as the new entity tasked with licensing and administering rights under the Music Modernization Act. The MLC is seen as the 'establishment choice' in the music rights industry and  is backed by the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), and the Songwriters of North America (SONA). Music Business Worldwide reports that One of the group’s first tasks will be the negotiation of a budget with streaming services who, by law, must fund the collective. It will also include setting up administration and matching services and development of a user portal through which publishers and songwriters will be able to manage rights and royalties. If a funding agreement cannot be voluntarily determined, the MLC and the digital services will go before the Copyright Royalty Board which will set the MLC’s budget through an assessment proceeding.

GMA reports that Japan's Bureau of Immigration (BI) has arrested a fugitive who is said to be one on Japan's "most wanted" list - for copyright infringement. the BI press release says that Romi Hoshino alias Zakay Romi, a Japanese-German-Israeli fugitive, was arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. The BI said Hoshino, 28, manages "Manga-Mura," allegedly an illegal viewing website of Japanese comics or graphic novels, popularly known as manga, that operated from January 2016 to April 2018. n what is said to be the worst violation of Japan's copyright law, Manga-Mura's operation allegedly cost 320 billion yen or US$2.9 billion in damages, the Bureau reported, citing Japanese authorities.

BoingBoing reports that attorney John Steele, one of the Prenda law copyright 'trolls', has been  sentenced to 5 years in prison. Last month, Paul Hansmeier was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.5m in restitution for his role in the firm that BoingBong says "used a mix of entrapment, blackmail, identity theft, intimidation and fraud to extort millions from its victims by threatening to drag them into court for alleged infringement of copyright in eye-watering pornography". Steele cooperated with authorities, while Hansmeier fought the system for longer before entering a plea. Like Hansmeier, Steele has to pay $1.5m in restitution. Both men have also been disbarred. Hansmeier is appealing both the conviction and the sentence. In August 2015 a third Prenda law attorney, Paul Duffy, died. Along with Steele and  Hansmeier, Judicial sanctions had been upheld against him by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit for engaging in “abusive litigation” and failing to pay attorney's fees in a porn-downloading lawsuit. In June that year US District Judge David Herndon ruled that Steele and Duffy had "engaged in unreasonable, willful obstruction of discovery in bad faith" in its case. 

And whilst on the fruity topic of trolls, The Electonic Frontiers Foundation has warned that the new Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act would "supercharge" a “copyright troll” industry. IPPro reports that  The CASE Act aims to make it easier for independent creators to better defend their IP from theft, and was proposed in May by Democrat congressman Hakeem Jeffries and Republican Doug Collins - and it has had wide support from the creative industries, in particular photographers and songwriters, musicians and artists. But the EFF argues that the bill would increase the number of trolls filing “many ‘small claims’ on as many internet users as possible in order to make money through the bill’s statutory damages provisions”. Under the bill, the US Copyright Office would gain a Copyright Claims Board, which would reduce costs and easing the burden for creators defending their intellectual property. The legislation would allow the Copyright Office to create a determination process for claims seeking up to $5,000 in damages which the EFF suggest is a "most trivial nod towards due process”. There again, many in the creative sector argue that the CASE Act "addresses a decades-old inequity in America's copyright system: a copyright system that all too often denies individual creators and small businesses a viable means of protecting their creative efforts. When it passes, the bill will give smaller individual creators the same kind of protections that larger scale creators have enjoyed for years."

YouTube has been updating its ways of handling copyright claims with changes that give the owners of the copyrighted content more control over their content - much to the horror of some YouTube users and creators who use other people's content in their work. - but to the delight of others. Digital Information World says "With the new policies, owners of any copyrighted content will now exactly mention the part in the video where the copyrighted material appears. With this feature, they can easily verify whether the claim is legitimate or not and to edit out the content if they don’t want any issues like losing revenue or having the video taken down. With this new update, the whole system will be more clear and very smooth to operate. Video creators will be able to see the part that’s been claimed, and YouTube will allow them to mute the audio during that portion or to easily replace the audio with any free-to-use song from YouTube’s library. If they chose any of these options, the copyright claim will automatically be removed." In February The Verge reported that an anonymous blackmailer has caught at least two YouTube creators in a scheme involving cash ransoms and "esoteric copyright laws". Both creators shared stories of how their channels were being threatened with a third copyright strike — and the possible termination of their channels — from an anonymous extortionist. The scammer offered to reverse the strikes in return for payment to a bitcoin wallet or to an adjoining Paypal account. YouTube now requires copyright owners to provide timestamps for all new manual Content ID claims.  and YouTube said in a blog post that it’s going to be vigilant about policing false claims: “We’ll be evaluating the accuracy of these timestamps. Copyright owners who repeatedly fail to provide accurate data will have their access to manual claiming revoked.”

Friday 5 July 2019

Court rules Andy Warhol's Prince Portraits are fair use

On the left:  Prince, Lynn Goldsmith, 1981; on the right: Prince, Andy Warhol, 1984

The US District Court, Southern District of New York, on July 1 ruled that Warhol's 1984 "Prince Series" do not infringe Lynn Goldsmith's copyright on a Prince's photograph shot in 1981 for Newsweek and never published.

In October 1984, Vanity Fair licensed for 400 dollars one of Goldsmith's black-and-white studio photographs of Prince by her agency, while the photographer did not know that her work had been licensed for use as an artist's reference. Indeed, Vanity Fair commissioned Warhol to create an illustration of Prince titled "Purple Fame", which was published in the November 1984 issue of the magazine. The article contained a copyright attribution for the portrait making reference to the Goldsmith's source photograph. Based on the Goldsmith's Prince photograph, Warhol created also the Prince Series, comprised of sixteen works: twelve silk-screen paintings, two screen prints on paper and two drawing. Twelve of the sixteen works were then auctioned or sold; all works were licensed for use in books, magazines, newspaper and merchandising purposes.   

After Prince died on April 21, 2016, Vanity Fair republished an online copy of its November 1984 "Purple Fame" article, crediting Warhol and Goldsmith for the Prince illustration in the article, beside publishing a commemorative magazine using one work of Warhol's Prince Series as magazine's cover, crediting only Warhol and not Goldsmith. 

In July 2016, Goldsmith started complaining with the Andy Warhol Foundation that Warhol's Prince Series infringed upon the copyright associated with her photograph, demanding the Foundation to pay a substantial sum of money and threatening to sue if the Foundation refused.

The Foundation preemptively sued Ms Goldsmith and her company in 2017 seeking a declaratory judgement that the works based on Goldsmith's photograph do not constitute copyright infringement, being dissimilar to the Goldsmith Prince photograph and, in any event, that the series is protected by fair use doctrine. In addition, the Foundation raised also a statute of limitation defense, arguing that the three-year statute of limitation barred the defendant's claim. Goldsmith responded with a counterclaim for copyright infringement. 

The Court did not evaluate all parties' claims, focusing on whether that Prince Series were protected by fair use applying the four-factor test.

As to the first factor i.e. the purpose and character of the use, the Court found that the Prince Series works can be considered sufficiently transformative. Whereas Goldsmith's photograph centered on helping Prince to reveal his identity of vulnerable and uncomfortable person, Warhol's Series created an  "iconic, larger-than-life figure" of the singer using unrealistic colors, employing a new aesthetic and conveying a new artistic message. Furthermore, each work of the Prince Series is immediately recognizable as a "Warhol" and not as real photograph.

As to the second factor, that is the nature of the copyrighted works, the Court ruled that its significance - as for the first factor - is diminished when the secondary work uses the copyrighted work for a transformative purpose as in the case at issue.

With reference to the third factor, i.e.  the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation the copyrighted work as a whole, the Court observed that Warhol removed all protectible elements of Goldsmith's photograph in creating his Series. Indeed, he used only a portion of Goldsmith's photograph that is Prince's head; employing sharp contours of Prince's face and bright colors instead of black and white, giving a flat, two-dimensional effect rather than the three-dimensional one of the source photograph. 

As to the final fair use factor i.e. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work, the Court inquired whether Warhol's Prince Series usurped the market for potential derivative works of Goldsmith's photograph. The Court found that the licensing markets of the two artists are very different and the Prince Series works cannot be considered as market substitutes that have harmed, also potentially, Goldsmith's market.  

The Court granted the Foundation's motion for summary judgement, dismissing Goldsmith's copyright infringement counterclaim. Goldsmith's lawyer said to New York Times that she was very disappointed from the fair use finding, hoping that the appeal will be more successful.